Shardul Pandey: I welcome you Audra at SANGKRIT.net, tell me your story.
Audra Kubat: My name is Audra Kubat, and I’m a folk singer-songwriter based in my native Detroit, Michigan. I started playing music as a child, teaching myself how to play piano by ear. I started playing guitar in my late teens and began putting words to the music shortly after that. I have performed out since the 1990’s, and have three albums released independently on my own Remedy Records, and two released nationally through a label called Times Beach Records.
I started writing music because it helped me to process and work through the troubles in my life. It was healing for me. As I began to share my work with others, I found that people were moved in a similar way, and this really helped motivate me to branch out and play more and more shows.
I have had the honor of performing at many music festivals in my state and participating in many charity events that have helped numerous causes throughout the years. In 2001, I won an award for “Outstanding Folk Artist” in the Detroit Music Awards, and have been annually nominated ever since.
There was a point back in 2005-2006 when I was in light rotation on over 250 college radio stations nationwide. I began to tour regularly along the route between Detroit and New York, and at the height of my exposure through Times Beach, I moved to New York City with the intention of spending a year or so sharing my music there. When I arrived, I spent 4-5 days a week seeking out and playing open mics throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Meanwhile, as the year passed, it became apparent that my label back home was unable to sustain itself, and folded. Suddenly I found myself out there on my own, without access to the connections they had made for me.
This was hard, and it hit me emotionally at the time. I struggled with depression yet pressed on in New York the best I could for the next few months, but in the darkest part of that experience I returned home.
Disappointed by the collapse of Times Beach Records, and my own, I retreated into a period of reflection, writing, and practice. I played less shows and became a little more reclusive, but I didn’t stop generating new work and got back on my feet.
In the years since my last release, I have steadily built up dozens of new songs, and carefully honed the ones that will become a new album. I feel that I sound better today than I ever have, and with this album, I am stepping back into the ring.
As an acoustic artist, I was long focused on lyrics and melodies and left the digital work to recording engineers. However, recently I’ve stepped into the digital waters, and it is exhilarating. With my laptop and ProTools I’ve had hands-on mixing control for the first time in my career. With these new tools, I created the 20-minute score for ‘Knowledge Is Power‘ at 2012’s DLectricity, a celebration of light.
I’m a working musician, making my living on gigs, shows big and small, giving lessons, and working with local Detroit organization InsideOut Literary Arts Project which places artists and writers in the Detroit class rooms to share their artistry.”
Shardul Pandey: Any new plans for an international tour on your skyline?
Audra Kubat: I am open to this; however I don’t currently have the resources. I have sold a few thousand records overseas though, many of which were concentrated in the Netherlands. So, it would seem that there are possibilities.
Shardul Pandey: What makes your endeavors unique?
Audra Kubat: Well, I am not sure it is so unique, but I work to find meaning in the world through my work. The music is trying to negotiate the difference between hope and reality. Picking up pieces and turning them over to see all sides, and uncover the ever-changing dimensions. I guess I am searching for the answers by singing out loud into the universe and asking for a response. Maybe what’s unique about it, is its timing. I am working in a medium that is one of the oldest. In that, I’m trying to find something new that can be said. Something that can again, like many old folk songs, try to explain our position against the backdrop of the present; something that acknowledges our collective need to make sense of it and to belong to it, yet still be ourselves.
Shardul Pandey: According to you, what are cushy and hard parts of singing?
Audra Kubat: The cushy part of singing for me is that it seems to be effortless. I can’t really even stop myself from singing…any time of day or night. I am constantly making up tunes, as I am walking, waiting in line, driving…I sometimes don’t even realize I am singing and am reminded when someone from the next stall over, ha. Words too, come like this. It is like I can just see something and be moved to sing about it on the spot. Most of my songs come this way…melody and lyrics together.
The hard part of singing for me is trying to be completely in the song and give it its just due when I am performing it. For the song to work it must be honest, I really have to dig down and find the mindset that I had when I was moved to write it. This is the tough part…reliving those moments. Whether happy or sad, they all were quite intense, or I would not have written about them. Regardless, that is the challenge. This part takes all of me, and I am not saying that is it not worth it. It is a part of the process and in the end is the most meaningful for me. It is that you deliver the song to the people and that they feel it and they know that you gave it to them with honestly and you can feel it coming back to you. This is the goal. This is where the real value is.
Shardul Pandey: What is your foremost experience as an artist?
Audra Kubat: My foremost experience as an artist…that is a big question. I could answer this in a simple way, really. I think my experience overall is that being an artist is not a choice I can make. It is a joy and a burden. The highs are glorious and the lows, just devastating. Really, for myself, it is like having an affliction that causes you to feel such a connection to the things outside of yourself that you are crippled and empowered at the same time; a challenge in a world with so much tension, right? Yet, this pressure is what causes the pen to push on the paper, and causes the artist to react. It helps make the unbearable seem conquerable.
Shardul Pandey: What do you feel is your strength as a performer?
Audra Kubat: I believe allowing myself to be vulnerable is a strength, and doing so in turn allows others to be. This is when a connection can really happen. I believe vulnerability can be a good thing at times. Really what’s happening, is that one is being honest about their true feelings. When we stop hiding and allow ourselves to be open, we can know each other more wholly. Kind of a nice thing, I think.
Shardul Pandey: How would you like to be remembered?
Audra Kubat: I guess if I am remembered, I would like it if people said I gave myself to the world. I wanted so badly to help others be themselves and love each other, that I sacrificed for a dream that is not mine alone, The dream of a global love and respect between people. This is why I write and I struggle, why I push and dig. I can see it sometimes, imagine it when I try…
Shardul Pandey: Would you like to say anything for “Shardul Pandey Talks”?
Audra Kubat: I love the Internet. It is important for understanding our global significance. It creates a place where conversation can take place and open dialogues can be inclusive and expansive. People can talk about their experiences from many miles apart. They can share a collective experience and have it change how they view others. From a business perspective, it’s freeing, and allows me to be at home and still connect with people directly.
Shardul Pandey: What is your ultimate message for netizens ?
Audra Kubat: Be kind, follow your hearts, be fearless, love hard, travel, spend time with your elders, be like a child, challenge your beliefs, be leery of stereotyping, sing out loud in a restaurant, spend time alone, spend time with friends, listen to the beggar once in a while, question authority, be real, dance with your lover sometimes, even if you hate to dance!